Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | December 23, 2009

The Changing Face of Animal Control

Peppermint the Perky Puppy

Although part of the Second Chance Humane Society service area does not yet have animal control officers (Second Chance serves San Miguel and Ouray Counties) it was great to read in Animal Sheltering magazine (the July/August 2009 edition which I summarize below) about the changing nature of animal control services throughout the nation.  The article details how progressive agencies are changing the way animal control does business, by reconciling the need to protect the public with the goal of saving animals’ lives.

In the early era of animal control (latter days of the 19th century), agencies across the country followed a model that they thought defined their role: protect the public from dangerous animals and cite people for violations of animal control laws.  They felt that the way to correct animal problems was to enforce laws by citing everyone and impounding everything.   However, intake and euthanasia numbers weren’t dropping and the same animal problems kept happening. It was like bailing the ocean with a thimble.

Changes needed to be made at the essence of animal control, a service which evolved out of fear when rabies was regularly causing human fatalities, especially in cities where stray dogs roamed the streets and came into contact with people.  Many understood that deaths from rabies were related to contact with animals, but the limited understanding of disease transmission led to a terror of stray dogs that now seems absurdly paranoid and led to mass and inhumane roundups of stray dogs.  Some of the oldest humane societies in the country were formed by citizens concerned about the brutality of the dogcatchers.

The vast majority of animal control officers today bear no resemblance to the terrifying dogcatchers of history—in part because since 1960, the majority of rabies cases in this country have been caused by wild, not domestic, animals. As a result the U.S. has become a nation of pet lovers and decreases in euthanasia numbers across the country reflect the hard work of people in the field, and the growing public concern for animals.

More people now recognize the value of licensing and of spaying and neutering their pets. More people keep their animals in their homes with them.  National euthanasia estimates in the 1970s were between 12 and 20 million; current annual estimates are below 4 million. It’s a tremendous achievement, and the trend downward continues.

And now the public also wants to know that their local agencies are humane-minded, compassionate places working alongside other community animal welfare groups to stop animal cruelty and reduce euthanasia.  Enforcement is a part of that, but education is just as important.  Subsequently more and more agencies have dropped “Control” from their names, opting for the more friendly “Animal Services”.  For many of the best agencies in the country, citation and enforcement—while still necessary tools—are far, far down the list of daily priorities.

 My name is Peppermint and as a recently rescued puppy here at Second Chance I am grateful for the changes that continue to make life for stray pups like me much better.  And I am grateful for the caring persons who provide animal services throughout this region – from animal control officers to the Second Chance staff and volunteers!

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online: www.secondchancehumanesociety.org.  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.

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